A matter of inclusion: Dr Matthew Piscioneri receives award for teaching innovation

Dr Matthew Piscioneri from Monash Academic and Professional Writing, recipient of a 'Teaching innovation and impact award'.
Dr Matthew Piscioneri from Monash Academic and Professional Writing, recipient of a ‘Teaching innovation and impact award’.

Would you employ a dog if you thought it was suited to the job? Imagine you are looking at a Youtube video: a dog – golden retriever – is speaking to camera telling you why it is a good candidate for the position, and the pitch is pretty convincing – you might actually hire this dog!

The talking dog video was created by a student for a unit run by Monash teacher and academic Dr. Matthew Piscioneri. When we caught up with Matthew he showed us the video as an example of how students in his online tutorials sometimes use animated avatars in their presentations, and that while the result can be slightly unnerving and funny, it can also be surprisingly effective. The use of avatars is just one of the techniques Matthew employs to break down barriers for a better study experience for his students.

Matthew has recently been recognised for his innovative teaching approach using online tutorials for distance and disabled students, receiving a ‘Teacher Innovation and Impact Award’ from the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching).

The award is designed to reward small changes that create a big impact on teaching and learning at Monash, and Professor Rae Frances, Dean of Monash Faculty of Arts, said of Matthew’s award, “This award recognises Matthew’s commitment to teaching and student learning and demonstrates the Faculty’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Matthew said it was his time on Academic Progress Committee that really opened his eyes to what can be going on in the background for students, and what some have had to overcome just to get to tutorials (which are mandated (compulsory) for a 75% attendance rate.)

“I got a shock when I found out that students were coming from as far away as Geelong, and I thought this travelling time could be spent better,” said Matthew. “I’ve also had a bit to do with the disabilities liaison unit, and you realise that so many students have issues going on in the background to their study, and so the online tutorials were meant to address that.”

Matthew decided to explore ways that technology and online learning can make a difference by using synchronous and non-synchronous tools including movenote and anymeeting. Some units were delivered wholly online, whilst for others there was an option to do tutorials either face to face or online. Matthew found where the option existed, about 20 percent of students took up the online option.

He also discovered things were not always as he expected. For example, he found that although video might seem like a good solution for replacing the face to face experience of a tutorial, in the context of online tutorial, video can be distracting and even confronting.

“It’s a really interesting one,” said Matthew. “Research has been done that shows that students prefer slides and audio, and not necessarily video…,” and he laughed when he added,”… of their ageing lecturer – and I don’t blame them!”

Matthew said that online tools also gave students the choice of whether to see an image of their lecturer, and he said it was interesting to see how many students chose to have the ‘audio only’ option.

Matthew has even used avatars himself to introduce an online tutorial, setting the tone and introducing an element of humour to put people at ease and show a human side.

“Often teachers sit around and talk about how they can get more engagement in their tutorials. I remember being a first year student and being petrified with lack of self confidence, so possibly online might help some people overcome this, ” said Matthew. “When the lecturer/teacher starts to play around with different platforms then it gives students permission to try something similar, to stretch themselves.”

So how has the response been to these new ways of learning? Matthew said he is still waiting for formal ‘SETU’ results (University wide system for getting student feedback), but anecdotally the feedback has been very positive.

Matthew also says the award from the Learning and Teaching area is a great endorsement for education innovation at Monash, and he found the award application process was a very positive experience for him. Applicants were asked to present their application as a three minute video, and this helped Matthew to focus his message and reflect on the essence of what had been achieved.

“I’m an education focused academic so it’s nice to see the University (through Better Teaching Better Learning) being so supportive,” said Matthew.

Matthew teaches Professional Writing, Advanced Professional Writing and English for Academic Purposes, and his recent research evaluating student preferences for modes of teaching and learning resource delivery is closely linked to his teaching. Matthew has been working with KMUTT University in Thailand sharing techniques and strategies from the Monash experience, and he is also looking at working with a University in Cambodia who are about to roll out that country’s first online program.

Matthew works for Monash Academic and Professional Writing (APW) where students learn strategies for powerful and effective writing, and how to use English at University and in professional work beyond. Based in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, APW units are open to students across the University, with students come from Business and Economics, Science, Medicine.

Study at Monash


A professional write-mare (sic): can you spot the mistake?

“How do you think I feel? Betrayed….bewildered……”

How about those Dolphins?

Just one of many moments of hilarity from the wonderfully funny Birdcage movie with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Well, I guess that’s how I feel on discovering a simple typo in the unit description for ATS1298 Professional Writing, part of the promotional material distributed today to several hundred potential students of the programme at Monash’s Open Day 2014. Oh….and I would also add “responsible”.  What to do becomes the next question. Damage control seems the obvious answer. Please read on.

Plead mea culpa….throw yourself on the mercy of your audience, of your industry peers, of your currently enrolled students. Hang one’s head in shame as one trudges the long walk across the campus. Haaa….it’s a jungle out there…there’ll be no forgiveness, just inevitable professional and possibly public humiliation. Even Ash, my pet budgie, seems to be looking down on me with greater disdain than usual from his perch upon high. It has started.

Why, why, why did I join the self-righteous chorus of sniggering caustic critics of that ‘viral’ Monash promotional blunder displayed for all to see on many a bus shelter billboard, which saw ‘then’ and ‘than’ mixed up:

Then and Than

Why, why, why did I use this example in Lecture 1 to highlight the follies of an unprofessional writing? Pride does indeed cometh before a fall. But, didn’t I also suggest in the lecture that this error could have been deliberate: a strategy, a clever ruse to actually achieve publicity, notoriety? Perhaps the same could be applied to this current disgrace…perhaps, afterall, my skin is salvageable?

Yes, that’s it! It was an intentional mistake…. a teaching opportunity ….a faux error. Ash, the budgie, remains unimpressed. It just won’t wash. It was a mistake: poor professional writing. Mea culpa.

Accuracy in writing, especially in a professional context, is important. Accuracy in writing signals a certain credibility, especially when one claims some sort of expertise in the field to the extent of teaching such a professional writing programme at tertiary level. So….. “not happy {Matthew}. Please try harder”. Can you spot the mistake?





MOOCs and the Faculty of the Future

In this provocative exploration of the potential impacts of MOOCs (massive open online courses), Dr. Matthew Piscioneri from Monash University’s School of Media, Film & Journalism suggests the arrival of the MOOC and the changing role of the University Library due to the impacts of new digital technologies could revolutionise the Twenty First century academy (and not necessarily for the better!).


This presentation examines the potential impacts on higher education of mass open online courses [MOOCs]. Taking recent discussion in Australian higher education media of MOOCs as a starting point, the paper suggests these changes are inevitable, these changes are not entirely unwelcome, and, to reduce the undue influence of corporate interests in these changes, ‘hesitant’ tertiary educators should engage positively in the discussion. I also examine changes to the role of the university library in tertiary learning and teaching, one that might see the library taking on an enhanced role in the delivery of curriculum in conjunction with MOOCs.


Through its humanistic connection, the concept of experience also has an ideological function: faith in an individual’ s innate capacity to grow and learn. This is what makes it particularly attractive for adult education theorists and for the idea of lifelong learning. The humanistic connection is also epistemologically significant, since it strengthens the methodological individualism of experiential learning.

Reijo Miettinen (2000)

 Won’t everything that is said be inscribed in the very mechanisms we are trying to denounce?

Michel Foucault (1981)

[The following chapter published in 2011 might also be of interest to scholars and others interested in the potentially negative impacts of ICTs on higher education:

 Piscioneri, Matthew. “Is All that Glitters Gold?: Re-Thinking E-Learning and Education Revolutions.” Technologies for Enhancing Pedagogy, Engagement and Empowerment in Education: Creating Learning-Friendly Environments. IGI Global, 2012. 287-299. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. doi:10.4018/978-1-61350-074-3.ch024

“Knowledge is only a click away. Technology is a tool. Chalk and talk is an anachronistic and unproductive teaching and learning delivery mode. There is a new generation of “net.gen” “digital natives” who can only learn via information communication technology, thereby requiring an entirely new approach to education. This paper suggests the persistence of tropes such as these in discourse of technology enhanced learning, particularly at the tertiary level, is noteworthy and invites our critical interest. Taking this analysis of contemporary discourse of technology enhanced learning as a platform, the chapter examines broader issues concerned with the commercialization of tertiary education and the new managerialism in the higher education sector. “]



Leading Malaysian Researchers to visit

In March 2014, Monash University, Faculty of Arts will host a visit by seven leading educational researchers from Universiti Utara Malaysia. The LEADS Group will undertake research whilst in Australia on their current project:

Enhancing large class teaching using student-centred learning approach in higher education: A comparative study

Nurahimah Mohd Yusoff (nura@uum.edu.my),

 Abdul Malek Abdul Karim, Ahmad Jelani Shaari, Rafisah Osman, Norhashima Abdul Aziz, and Hamida Bee Bi Abdul Karim

School of Education and Modern Languages

Universiti Utara Malaysia

“We are very excited about having the UUM group visit us in Australia,” said Dr Matthew Piscioneri from Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism, who is coordinating the visit. “UUM is Malaysia’s leading business and management tertiary institution and has an international reputation for excellence in the field of advanced teaching methods and strategies in a range of different disciplines,” Piscioneri continued.

The centrepiece of the UUM Team’s visit is a mini-symposium to be held at Monash’s Clayton campus on March 10th, Menzies, E561: 10-2 pm,


University Utara Malaysia & Monash University

Monday 10 March 2014

E561 Menzies Building, Clayton, 10-2 pm


Register: Matthew.Piscioneri@monash.edu


Light lunch provided






Assoc.   Prof. Susanna Scaparo

A/Dean   Education, Faculty of Arts

Introduction   & Welcome: The 21st Century Student: Addressing the challenges   – Realizing the potentials


Assoc.   Prof. Dr. Nurahimah Mohd. Yusoff

Student-Centred   Learning in Malaysia: A case study


Assoc.   Prof. Dr. Ahmad Jelani and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abdul Malek Abdul Karim

Assessing   21st Century Learning Using Digital Tools



Dr.   Noor Hashima Abdul Aziz, Dr. Hamida Bee Bi Abdul Karim and Dr. Rafisah Osman

Issues and Challenges in Learning and Teaching in Malaysian   Education







Dr. Lynette Pretorius

Student-centred learning in an online   environment: Learning to critically evaluate sources through self-discovery.


Assoc. Professor Kevin Tant


Active   Learning Strategies in the StarLab


Dr. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou

What   students think of our ‘Moodling’?


Marta Spes-Skrbis & Jim Koutsuokos

Engaging   students outside the classroom in activities that promote learning skills and   personal and critical development of an individual.


Dr.   Matthew Piscioneri

The   Problem with Problem-Based Learning (especially in a Blended Learning   Environment)


Problem based learning: challenges and opportunities


(especially in a blended learning environment)


View the presentation at http://youtu.be/EL7dccfnGT0

Dr. Matthew Piscioneri

School of Media, Film & Journalism

Faculty of Arts, Monash University


Do we currently over assess our students in higher education? What are some of the less than optimal consequences of implementing active learning in the classroom? Do the technology applications, which students (and teachers!) need to master in a blended learning environment, compromise rather than enhance learning outcomes? In this thought provoking presentation, Monash academic, Dr. Matthew Piscioneri, challenges several prevalent paradigms in contemporary tertiary learning and teaching.


 Wheel of Anxiety


This presentation reflects on the implementation of a problem-based learning pedagogy [PBL] into the presenter’s current teaching practice. Informed by a range of quantitative and qualitative data samples, the discussion section examines a subject of particular interest to the author: the persistent dynamic or tension in teaching and learning between the ideal (the theory of the teaching art) and the real (the practice of this art). What interests me most today are the complex consequences or impacts of a problem-based pedagogy on the practice of tertiary teaching and learning, especially within a virtual or blended learning environment [VLE/BLE]:

  • An increase in the number and complexity of assessment tasks
  • An increase in the time spent in lectures, tutorials and email communications explaining assessment tasks to students
  • An decrease in the time available for providing detailed feedback to students on their assessment tasks as a result


The paper offers for discussion the following questions:

  1. Does PBL in practice actually support the pedagogical objectives of a student-centred approach to teaching and learning?
  2. Is the contemporary university student well prepared enough for the transition to a mainly PBL curriculum?
  3. Is there an inherent tension in contemporary advocacy of PBL in Virtual Learning Environments [VLEs] and or Blended Learning Environments [BLEs]?
  4. Is the contemporary university student increasingly “overwhelmed” by the technological management of his/her tertiary learning experience and possibly, therefore, “underwhelmed” by the content of the tertiary learning experience.


Increasingly I would argue, university teaching and learning is about how students are to learn, not so much about what they are to learn and much less so about a critical interrogation of why they are to learn what. Whilst I am a strong advocate of developing in our students a reflexive, meta-attitude to their learning and teaching processes, too often I suggest, this meta-attitude may be absorbed into the “busy-ness” of simply coping with more complex teaching, learning and assessment processes in VLEs/BLEs.

View the presentation at http://youtu.be/EL7dccfnGT0

UUM Presentation_December



Hanoi presentation: Student mobility & employability


Hanoi National University of Education

Saturday 14 December

Dr. Matthew Piscioneri


A recent study conducted into the relationship between study abroad programs and enhancing students’ employability attributes also collected data which suggested these programs heightened students’ self reflection on their own learning processes. Students developing a meta-attitude to their own learning is seen by progressive pedagogues to be a critical factor in ensuring positive and sustainable learning outcomes. This paper reports on the various ways in which students responded to the experiential learning “teachniques” applied during their study abroad. Findings are also presented that indicate the ways in which this international experience contributes to graduate employability attributes, especially in the areas of self reflexivity, critical thinking and inter-cultural competence. In the context of student mobility, employability and academic preparation for life ‘beyond the academy’, the results of the study suggest a “win-win” result. A result, which in the presenter’s opinion, should encourage more investment in the emergent synergies at Monash that explore such a unique and productive nexus.

Many thanks to my hosts Dr. Tuong Huy Nguyen and Ms. Linh Le for organizing the event.


HNUE present

Make Up




International symposium, Faculty of Arts, Monash University

October, 2010

 As the world’s youngest nation South Sudan hovers on the brink of relapsing into a deadly civil war, it is perhaps timely to revisit a unique conference staged at Monash University in 2010 and supported by the Faculty of Arts. Coordinated by Dr Craig Thorburn, Dr. Matthew Piscioneri and Mr. Deng Nguoth representing the Nuer Community in Victoria Organization, over two days, the Conference brought together senior representatives of the South Sudanese interim government, engaged leaders from Australia’s South Sudanese community, as well as a group of expert academics in the fields of post-conflict reconciliation and development studies. The recordings of presentations from the LEADERS FORUM are accessible below:




For more information, please contact:

Dr. Matthew Piscioneri






Research proposals & methodologies

An integral part of undertaking a Higher Degree by Research is dressing to impress! This section will comprise of the essentials all post-graduate research students need to be aware about when preparing to embark on the research journey. 

Research proposals 


 Critical reviews

research proposals




Pre-departure orientation: General and advanced academic writing & reading skills

Having refined and developed macro-skills related to a culture of critical inquiry the time has now come to refine the more precise aspects of writing in a HDR setting. The devil is in the detail! Below are several tutorials that will help identify common problems in academic writing:

1.  writingres   

2. critreading

3. reports



Undertaking research: Purposes, reasoning and culture

Pre-departure training is an essential aspect for student’s hoping to study in the Australian tertiary sector. This section details the fundamental philosophical rationales behind the critical culture of inquiry in the Australian tertiary sector. Importantly, this module aims to both introduce students to critical reasoning, while applying micro/macro academic skills development. 

This module aims to introduce students to a critical culture of inquiry pursued in the Australian tertiary sector and Monash University in particular.  Click on each unique module for an introduction to a culture of critical inquiry:


1. HoIIntro

2. slide2HoI

3. HoI3

4. HoI4

5. HoI5

6. HoI6

7. HoI7

8. HoI8

9. Hoi9

10. HoI10

11. HoI11

12. HoI12

13. HoI13

14. HoI14